February 15

Numbers 19-21, Psalm 46

When our children are young, we do not accept their reasons for their disobedience. If we were holding their hand near the street and they took off across the road to chase a balloon, we would not tell our child that we understood their action. This act of disobedience would come with a punishment and a warning for the future. If we wouldn't accept this from a child, why do we believe as adults that our acts of disobedience can be justified by something in our past or present circumstances? Modern psychology focuses on delving into the past to help one justify their present unhappiness or actions. Morning talk shows like Jerry Springer, or shows like Judge Judy are filled with outrageous behavior on the part of the guests blaming someone or something in their past to justify their actions. After our last presidential election, outrageous behavior resulted on college campuses for students who could not fathom that their choice, Hillary Clinton, lost. Some rioted. Other schools provided toddler-like therapy: The University of Pennsylvania brought in a puppy and a kitten for therapeutic cuddling, Cornell hosted a "cry-in", the University of Michigan Law School scheduled arts and crafts with play-dough, coloring, and blowing bubbles. God expects our obedience despite our circumstances. In fact, these circumstances are often allowed by God to draw us closer to Him, as we read in James 1:2-4, "My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing."

In Numbers 20:1, we read the simple statement, "...and Miriam died there and was buried there." The death of his sister would certainly affect Moses. The very next portion of Scripture shows the people complaining to God for lack of water. Moses is instructed by God what to do in 20:8, "...Speak to the rock before their eyes and it will yield its water...". Moses then uncharacteristically disobeys God and acts in anger, as we read in 20:10-11, "...Hear now, you rebels! Must we bring water for you out of this rock? Then Moses lifted his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod;...". Was it the sadness he felt for the loss of Miriam that caused him to disobey? We will never know, but God didn't say to Moses that He understood this act of disobedience. Instead, there were earthly consequences for this action in not being permitted to lead the people into the Promised Land. We read of the refusal by the King of Edom to permit the Israelites to pass through their land in Numbers 20:14-20, with the result in 21:4, "Then they journeyed from Mount Hor by the Way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the soul of the people became very discouraged on the way." Was this discouragement and the complaining worsened by the death of Aaron, their High Priest, which we read about in 20:29? We will never know, but this did not justify their actions which we read in Numbers 21:5, "And the people spoke against God and against Moses: "Why have you brought us out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread." God did not respond to this act of disobedience by giving the Israelites a little space as they got over their disappointments. We see His response in 21:6, "So the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people; and many of the people of Israel died." We get a great picture of Christ in the ending of this plague as we read in 21:8-9, that Moses was told to make a fiery bronze serpent and set it on a pole, so that those who looked upon it would live. We read how Jesus referred to Himself in His conversation with Nicodemus in John 3:14-15, "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life." The bronze serpent was an early picture of Christ taking our sins upon Himself, hanging on a pole; and if we would just look to Him we would be healed and saved.

No one will be spared during this life of sadness, disappointments, and discouragements. These events do not give us the license to act out in an ungodly manner. During these times in the valleys of life, we must lean on Him all the more. We are not to bring reproach to His name, as God's representatives during these times. May those of us called according to His name maintain our legacy in how we represent Him in good times and bad. We must never forget that we are citizens of heaven, and ambassadors on earth (Philippians 3:20). When our national ambassadors misrepresent our president it is treasonous and demands swift action. As God's ambassadors, we must be careful never to misrepresent God in the eyes of the citizens of this world. As opposed to the world's solutions that justify poor actions and poor character based on circumstances, God expects His children to maintain their character and actions despite their circumstances.

Messages from Pastor Lloyd Pulley:

Marj Lancaster